Last week I had the opportunity to speak at a conference for Christian writers and publishers. I was asked to address the need for Christian writing that engages the culture. I appreciated the chance to share 3 tips on engaging culture with the attendees. Since I think others may benefit from those tips, I wanted to share them here on my blog. Have you ever wondered how to engage culture while remaining faithful to your call as a Christian? Well these tips are for you.
1. Be Willing to Read The Culture’s Poets
In Acts 17, Paul finds himself in an interesting situation in Athens. Athens is a Greek-speaking, pagan culture. As he walks around, he sees idols everywhere—statues and temples dedicated to a pagan god. Paul goes up to the meeting place, where philosophers discussed hot topics of the day, and begins to engage them.Now, if Paul was a good evangelical, he would have walked them down the Romans road, right? All have sinned and fallen short of his glory…confess with your mouth. Done! All the Athenians are convicted and saved, right? Wrong!
That’s not how Paul approaches it. He sees an opportunity in a culture adverse to the gospel. He quotes their poets before presenting the gospel. Even your poets have said, We are His offspring. And right after he quotes their poets, he presents the gospel message.
Paul couldn’t get to the gospel with the people of Athens unless he knew about their poets. He found an entry point for the gospel.
Good Christian writers in a postmodern culture read widely. As a writer try checking out the culture’s sources, finding those idols, and replacing those idols with true object of our hope—Jesus Christ.
Like Paul walked around Athens, we need to walk around our Facebook news feeds, Twitter timelines, or work water coolers. There is where we’ll find the poets quoted in our day. That’s where we’ll find the idols.
2. Be Willing to Leave Jerusalem
How serious are we about the words of Jesus in Acts 1:8? But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you to be my witnesses in Jerusalem, in all of Judea and Samaria, AND to the end of the earth.
Some of us are content in Jerusalem. Because it’s safe there. People in Jerusalem speak our language. They know our cliches. But end of the earth? That’s unchartered territory. It’s dangerous. It’s uncivilized. But the end of the earth is in need of the gospel as much as, if not more, than Jerusalem.
I think some of us refuse to engage culture because we have this overwhelming sense that “Jerusalem needs us.” The church needs us. Christians need us! Sometimes I have this self-exalting thought myself. There are times I feel like I’m too important to leave Jerusalem. That’s when I have to check myself. Where’s the willingness to be used of God in whatever way he sees fit? Where is the “your will be done” in my career as a writer? Where is the your kingdom come—which implicitly says, “my kingdom go.” If we’re really serious about living at this intersection of the cross and culture, we’ve got to be willing to leave Jerusalem to proclaim this gospel message.
3. Be Willing to Endure the Chains
Do you know that Paul wrote many of his letters while chained to a Roman official and under house arrest? That’s why he talks at length about his imprisonment in Philippians 1.
You’ll have chains in your work too. Your chains might be mundane routine. You do the same thing every day. It’s getting old. It’s getting stale. You have a hard time finding motivation. Your chains might be an anonymous existence. Nobody knows you. You don’t have followers. You don’t have publishers and agents knocking down your door for a book deal.
Paul went through this chained experience for years. Every time his hand slid across that piece of parchment, he heard his chains. A constant reminder that he was a prisoner.
Yet, he still wrote.
Paul held on to one thing though. Here’s what he proclaims in Philippians without hesitation. My chains…these chains, are IN Christ. And that changes everything. His chains went from clanging cymbals to a beautiful ballad, as he wrote these words to the church at Philippi. And I am sure of this, he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. Because Paul endured his chains, generations have been transformed by his words.
What about your chains? Can you endure them? Your words are too important for you not to. Someone needs to hear your story. Someone needs the words you write to work on their heart.
So the next time you sit down to write, listen. What do you hear as you peck away at your keyboard or as you write with your pen? If it’s clanging, stand up, step away, read Philippians 1. Sit back down. Listen again. As you write, ask yourself this question: Is Beethovan jealous right now? Am I making a beautiful ballad? If so, you’ve got it. Your clanging will become a masterpiece because your perspective has changed. And because your perspective has changed other people’s lives can be changed.
Three simple tips. But I promise, if put into practice, you’ll be well on your way to engaging culture in your writing.